11.08.2009 - 13.08.2009 25 °C
We arrived in Moscow yesterday morning after only 30 hours on the train (pah!), and after checking in to the hotel we spent the day strolling around our little area of Moscow and generally catching up with ourselves. Today we got up early and walked straight down the road to Red Square, which literally took our breath away when we walked in to it. Its a lot smaller than we thought it was going to be, but the buildings surrounding it are the most impressive we have seen. We queued and went to see Lenin's Mausoleum first, which took just less than an hour to get through. The waiting process wasn't as painful as past pickled people (Mao and Ho), but Lenin managed to look just as fake and waxy as the rest. The mausoleum itself is an striking lump of shiny marble, which manages to blend well with the older buildings in Red Square. After that we walked through the garden behind the mausoleum, to where Josef Stalin got unceremoniously moved to after his popularity waned. He initially placed himself inside Lenin's tomb, but de-stalinisation during the 1960's led to him being moved to a less impressive resting place.
After that we walked down the square to St Basils Cathedral (or to give it its Russian title - The Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat), which we got really excited about seeing, after having seen it on TV so many times. Again, its a lot smaller than we thought it was going to be, but it looks absolutely fantastic. We were shocked to see that the inside is just as impressive as the outside, with lots of stunning small vaulted areas, it felt like a rabbit warren! After finally pulling ourselves away from St Basils at south end of the square, we strolled the length of Red Square, which has the Kremlin on one side, GUM (Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin - a huge department store) on the other and the State History Museum at the north end. On the north eastern corner of Red Square is the small but visually striking Kazan Cathedral. The original structure, built in 1636, was destroyed on the orders of Stalin in 1936 as part of his clearance of Red Square's religious buildings to make way for soviet military parades. We can thankfully see it today as it was rebuilt between 1990 and 1993 based on the original plans. After Kazan Cathedral, we walked through the north western end of the square into Aleksandrovsky Garden to watch the changing of the guard of the Unknown Soldier (goose-stepping galore!). From there we continued to walk down to the river and across a bridge so we could get a view of the Kremlin, which is fantastic and just as impressive as we thought it would be!
From there we crossed back over the river and went into Christ the Saviour Cathedral which, like Kazan Cathedral, was rebuilt recently as the original was knocked down in the 30's by Stalin in order to build a 415m high Soviet monstrosity to Lenin in its place, called The Palace of the Soviets. The plan, quite literally, never got off the ground and the area was used as a gigantic swimming pool until the Cathedral was rebuilt in the early 90's. It was really impressive and beautifully decorated inside with floor to ceiling murals and guilded artwork. Even though it has only been a consecrated cathedral for the past 9 years, it was rebuilt true to the original blue prints and retains all of its former glory.
After that we went to the Novodevichy Cemetery, which is basically a who's who of Russian composers, politicians and artists and literary figures. There are around 27,000 graves within the cemetery, so we spent an hour or so hunting out the ones we really wanted to see. The famous composers for Chris obviously - Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rostrapovich and Skryabin. We also saw Boris Yeltsin, whose grave was a funny marble effort in the shape of the Russian Flag, and Nikita Krushchev who succeeded Stalin after his death. In addition to these we hunted out Tolstoy (author of War and Peace) and Molotov (army general who was famous for making explosive cocktails!). After that we plodded home after a really brilliant time, we are both loving Moscow at the moment! The weather has also cheered up, so we are back in summer clothes!
We hope you are all well,
Not long until we see you all now,
Lots of Love,
Chris and Alex xxx